Kenya debates merits of employing a 91-year-old former vice president

Sunday December 9 2018

Norbert Mao

Norbert Mao  

By Norbert Mao

The Kenyan media, and of course social media, has been heated up by the appointment of Moody Awori, former Kenyan vice president, to the board of the Kenyan Sports, Arts and Social Development Fund. The grand old man, now 91, has not said anything about the matter. He knows better than to touch the mud being hurled at him. He may simply end up spreading it. He is waiting for it to dry then he will simply shake it off like dew on a Teflon coat.

When the appointment was announced the youth took to social media. The name Moody Awori trended for hours on Twitter. A certain @cirasvoice wrote: “When a Moody Awori trends you fear the worst. When you realise it isn’t what you first feared, the shock departs temporarily only to be replaced by more shock and sadness.” @cirasvoice adds sarcastically that: “Initially for the loss of a great man and later for the loss of direction of dear country.”
One @wamathai tweeted: “Moody Awori is older than 50 million people in Kenya. Only 19,000 people are older than him.”

But not so the appointing authority. President Uhuru Kenyatta who is serving his second, and last term, is the man who made the appointment and thus responsible for the rage among the youth who feel that Uncle Moody, as he is fondly called, should be enjoying his retirement like president Moi, now 94. And so Uhuru pulled out his six shooters, Cowboy style, and fired away at his critics. He says those who are criticising him don’t get his point. He appointed the old man because the position requires more than youthful energy. It requires integrity - a currency in very short supply among the youth apparently. He argued that if his critics cared about the money being stolen from state coffers, they would be thanking him instead of lambasting him.

“I could see yesterday in different platforms people complaining about my choice of a 91-year-old Awori to look after the youth’s sports fund; the people complaining should put themselves in my shoes,” he said. “If you see how young people we have trusted with positions steal public money, it’s rather I appoint somebody like Awori whom I am sure will protect your money to ensure intended developments and services get back to the people,” Uhuru said. “People should stop making noise and let me do my work.”

I don’t know why the young people cheered but perhaps it was a mockery of the president’s allegation which obviously is not supported by any evidence. If, for argument’s sake, we say the youth are those below 35, how many Kenyans below 35 are within reach of the Kenyan public money vaults? There may be a few loud mouths in politics but I have not seen many young people in the positions where spending decisions are made.
The president’s attackers say Uhuru’s action is in breach of promises he made to create jobs for the youth. They listed senior citizens holding big posts in government instead of being home enjoying retirement. The list has Uncle Moody Awori - 91, Francis Muthaura - 71, Chris Obure - 75, Matu Wamae - 79 years, Beth Mugo - 79, Musikari Kombo - 74, David Musila - 75, and Marsden Madoka - 75.

Uhuru’s use of his new anti-corruption crusade as an argument in support of his appointment may backfire. I suspect that Uncle Moody’s record will come under scrutiny. Kenyans will recall that in 2006 he was named in the report of the Anglo Leasing scam by anti-corruption Tsar John Githongo. Githongo report on the Goldenberg scandal also pointed at him. The ghosts of these cases may now be resurrected as the youth plead their innocence in corruption cases. As for Uncle Moody he will likely maintain a stoical and majestic silence. After all he is not new to the game. Isn’t his autobiography titled Riding on a Tiger?